Will Africa hack intense data-driven development?
Africa will soon explore ways to using advanced technologies to capture data about challenges in areas such as healthcare, agriculture, water and education, following a partnership between RTI international and IBM to deploy big data analytics and cognitive technologies to help transform development approaches in Africa and around the world.
In one of the first projects, IBM and RTI are developing and testing intelligent systems to capture data about schools in Mombasa County, Kenya. Drawing on the power of big data analytics, researchers will provide insight to governments, aid agencies and other organizations who are looking to make more informed decisions about investment and development while having greater visibility of results.
Dearth of African Data
Shortage of data on Africa in the past has led to misunderstandings or misrepresentations of the continent’s story, economic performance and potential. Over the past few decades, even simple facts have been misrepresented – the size of a country, its economic performance, the amount of poor people, the volume of exploitable resources.
The latest advances in mobile, big data and Internet of Things technologies have the potential to change that so that we have an accurate and dynamic understanding of Africa’s challenges, rising opportunities and incredible potential.
The partnership comes as a rapid rise in mobile and Internet of Things technologies are producing unprecedented amounts of data. In developing countries, mobile phones, digital devices and low-cost sensors connected to improving cellular networks are reaching previously disconnected communities with the potential to produce new insight about how people live and the challenges they face.
Big Data for Education in Mombasa County
One of the projects is putting up intelligent systems for data capture and decision support to improve accountability and transparency in more than 100 schools in Mombasa County, Kenya. The project is designed to support the Kenyan Ministry of Education Science and Technology data collection initiative.
In the past, head teachers, government officials and aid agencies across Sub-Saharan Africa have struggled to make informed decisions about how to invest in and improve education. In the project, teachers, head teachers, school principals and administrators will be equipped with tablet devices to capture data about students, classrooms, and school resources.
IBM and RTI scientists will use big data analytics and cognitive technologies to analyze the data and provide indicators that establish school profiles and progress and provide actionable recommendations about the county’s education system at a granular level. The activity is part of the United States Agency for International Development’s Education Data for Decision Making (EdData II) project.
Applying insights and actionable evidence from data will be key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, ambitious universal targets that will be confirmed by a United Nations Summit in September 2015. They include ending poverty and hunger, ensuring healthy lives and ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education.
“By adding analytical value and insight to data production, curation and integration, RTI and IBM will help lay the paving stones for the ‘data revolution for development’ to lead the way in achieving the sustainable development goals,” said Dr. Luis Crouch (http://www.apo.af/BHpam6), vice president and chief technical officer in RTI’s International Development Group, who has worked with various UN processes on the formation of these goals.